News Releases

Prepositioning of debris removal experts accelerates Hurricane Irma recovery operations

Published Sept. 11, 2017

MOBILE, Ala. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers preemptively mobilized Mobile District Emergency Management Chief Hubert “Bo” Ansley to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and civil engineer Herb Bullock to Puerto Rico, Sept. 4, to accelerate Hurricane Irma recovery operations.

At the time, Hurricane Irma was still two days away, but the Corps of Engineers made it a priority to get someone on the ground to begin initial damage assessments, immediately following the storm. 

“It can be challenging to find a suitable location for debris staging and reduction in an island setting,” said Mobile District Natural Disaster Program Manager Matt Tate. “So getting someone on the ground to conduct preliminary assessments and to catalog debris can really expedite recovery operations.”

Ansley and Bullock have been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as various other federal and local authorities to coordinate preparedness and response activities.

When the Corps of Engineers Debris Management Planning and Recovery Team (PRT) led by the Louisville District mobilized on Aug. 6, having subject matter experts on the ground to relay initial assessments was a big help.

“Bo (Ansley) has been a resource we have counted on and we hope to get as much from him as we can while he’s assisting the USVI mission,” said Steve Farkus, Louisville PRT Action Officer.

Hurricane Irma is the second major hurricane to make landfall in United States and its territories this year, and one of the strongest storms to ever hit the region. As recovery operations continue, the Corps of Engineers will assist local authorities with best management practices to determine the amount of debris, the characteristics of the debris, and the best avenues for disposal.

Under the National Response Framework the Corps of Engineers is assigned as the primary agency for Emergency Support Function #3 – Public Works and Engineering. The Corps assists FEMA by coordinating federal public works and engineering-related support, as well as providing technical assistance, engineering expertise, and construction management to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents.

The Corps of Engineers has advance contract initiative debris contracts awarded in six different regions that can be quickly mobilized after a disaster. There are seven debris PRTs located in district offices in Baltimore, Md.; Ft. Worth, Texas; Louisville, Ky.; Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans, La.; Portland, Oregon; and Sacramento, Calif.

USACE Mobile District Public Affairs

Release no. 17-046